New town, no job…no friends?

There is so much to look forward to when you move: setting up a new home, a chance to purge the junk you’ve accumulated, exploring your new town – just to name a few. All of those things and more are very much the same when you’re no longer working. In fact, you’ve got more hours available each day to enjoy them! And you can make those numerous Lowe’s / Home Depot trips at times far less busy than you could if you still worked. But there’s something important that you don’t often see discussed on FIRE blogs or videos: the challenges of making connections and building friendships in a new town without a workplace as a central meeting point.

A brief review of recent history

I left my job nearly fifteen months ago and my family moved a few weeks later. Our new home is about three hours away from where we used to live. That means our friend group of more than eight years is within range for weekend visits, but of course those require planning. In addition, all of my close friends are still working full time – or even quite a bit more. That means weekdays are totally out and weekends are their main time to “get everything else done”. So our availability is totally different, which makes perfect sense. Admittedly I have a hard time remembering this sometimes when awaiting replies to my many text messages (sorry!).

A few weeks ago there was an otherwise inconsequential event in my life that started me thinking more about this topic. As we discussed on a recent episode of Two Sides of FI, I had made weekend plans with friends near our former home. For perfectly sensible reasons, my friends needed to postpone. I was really disappointed, and even more so than I’d let on to anyone involved. The change of plans made me feel like I didn’t matter as much to my friends as they did to me – which was of course a very silly and wholly irrational reaction. But the emotions I felt were very real, I assure you.

Why was this little thing so impactful? I had really looked forward to those plans, it seems. But why? Sure, it would have been fun to see friends. But we didn’t have anything monumental planned for that weekend, after all. And we’d likely all get together in just a few weeks (we did, and it was great). The answer is pretty simple: I haven’t made many friends since we moved, and I’m almost solely relying on my out-of-area friendships for that connection. There are a variety of reasons I haven’t yet made many friends in my new town, COVID being just one of them. But there’s a simpler reason well within my control, and one I just hadn’t yet realized.

Making friends for the world to see

Your place of work is not the only opportunity to make friends, of course. Many people build friendships through civic groups, clubs, or places of worship. But at least for me, my closest relationships have always come from the workplace, so it’s what I know best. There is no easier place for me to find like-minded people, and the collision factor of working in an office provides many opportunities to learn about people. From there originate the kernels of what later yields close friendships. It’s a very different beast to start from zero in a new area where you are no longer working – at least for me, anyhow.

My ever-astute wife, Lorri, pointed out something rather eye-opening to me while filming 2SFI: I hadn’t really been doing very much to make connections and build new friendships since moving. Honestly I hadn’t really thought that my inaction was such a big part of it but of course she was 100% right. People clearly weren’t lining up on our doorstep to introduce themselves and hang out with me – I have no illusions that I’m so interesting or fun to be around such that they’d want to do that. So naturally I had to be much more motivated about the whole thing. Obvious, right? Truly, it hadn’t been to me until that moment.

Current status + steps taken so far

I’m not lacking for social interaction in our new town. In fact, one of the very reasons I took the job one day a week at the winery tasting room is for that engagement with others. That goal has been achieved, and I’m really enjoying it. But it’s not likely I’ll make effective friendships from a largely tourist customer base. However, just working in wine has given me a springboard to meet others in the industry who clearly share common interests with me, and that’s been great. Lorri works part time at a brewery. As you’ve gathered, I like beer, and frequent those establishments as well. So any of these things could well yield friendships. Recently, I’ve started to more actively seek out opportunities to meet industry folks. I think I’m off to a good start and have met some great people but clearly need to keep it up.

As I wrote above, clubs are also a great place to connect with people through common interests. Both Lorri and I are 20+ year homebrewers and love engaging in activities around beer. There is no local club dedicated to homebrewing in our town, so we are starting one! After polling for interest in a few online forums, our first meeting is a week away. I’m excited for the possibilities here. In addition to hopefully making a few good friends, this is also an opportunity for me to teach, something I really enjoy. So even if I’m wrong about it being a great way to make friends, I know I’ll find benefit from starting up this organization.

Where do I go from here?

I think persistence is the name of the game for me at present. As described, I’ve taken a few smaller steps to put myself out there more and actively seek opportunities to connect with people. And I’ve met some nice people who I enjoy hanging out with. But I also know that I’m just getting started. I need to follow up on the leads I have and also seek more. There are a few people with whom I feel there could be a connection. I need figure out if that’s true or if they might just be nice acquaintances. It takes time to build good friendships, after all – and that’s OK. I certainly believe it is effort well spent.

I will certainly continue to get together with my very good friends who live out of the area – several are irreplaceable in terms of their importance to me. And I don’t want that to change! But realistically, I also need to keep seeking opportunities to make friends locally. This town is where we’ve chosen to live and at least for the foreseeable future, will remain. It just makes good sense to find a couple of good friends nearby. Wish me luck!

image source: Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Let’s turn your passion into a business and generate some passive income!

Today I’ve elected to write about a favorite topic area of mine. Have you ever wished you were the one in complete control of your work schedule; selecting the hours and days you wish to get the job done, and from where you do it – perhaps on a tropical island or at your ski lodge? Sounds too good to be true, right? But many are doing it, and so can you.

Do you have any interest in generating extra income outside of your primary employment? Perhaps you have dreamed of how you might launch a small business from a hobby you truly enjoy, and grow it until you can quit your other job to run your own personal business empire? Are you already retired and are excited by the idea of creating a small business you can run part time? If any of that sounds good please read on!

Generating passive income and growing “side hustles” into small or even huge businesses are common paths to achieve financial independence. Search YouTube and you’ll see exactly how true that statement is. If you have even the slightest of entrepreneurial streaks in you, this could be the accelerator you have been seeking! I don’t claim mastery of this area but I’ve studied it extensively. I am also fortunate to have learned a lot from several sources, including my Two Sides of FI creative partner, Eric. I have no step-by-step plan for world domination to give to you. Rather, my goal is to share a few resources and thoughts with you in the hopes they might inform and inspire you to do a bit of research, start brainstorming, and eventually launch your own next big thing!

Who wouldn’t want a four-hour workweek?

Sure, some among us truly love their jobs and wouldn’t trade them for the world. That’s really great! But I suspect even those lucky ones wouldn’t mind having greater control of their schedules, over the priorities that frame their days, and be able to take time off whenever they want. These are indeed some of the benefits of what I’m going to describe here. If you’ve never heard of Tim Ferris, let me enlighten you. He’s an entrepreneur, best-selling author, blogger, podcaster (the first to have a show exceed 200 million downloads), and to many, a sherpa who guided them to the lifestyle they always wanted. Enter, “The Four Hour Workweek”.

This is a remarkable book (Kindle and Audible versions also available) despite its seemingly fantastic title. On the surface, it fanciful indeed, but the concepts contained to help one realize that vision are rather straightforward and easily understood, yet very effective. I am among several people I know who cite this book as wildly influential – if not transformational towards how they think about work.

In short, this book and it’s D-E-A-L method guides the reader towards a variety of practices to modify your existing work to place it much more directly under your control, or even better, to create your own thing. Importantly in both cases, the methods aim to reduce the active time you spend performing “work” – trading your time for money, gaining leverage and efficiency via a variety of different means. The most effective of these aim to help you generate passive income – among the most powerful levers available to transform your ideas about the relationship between work and money. There is something in this book for everyone, irrespective of your age, field of work, or intended retirement age.

Passive income: make it once, benefit “forever”

The concept of passive income is simple on the surface: earn money without doing active work – or at least, not continuously doing active work as in a standard job. One easily relatable example of passive income comes from owning rental property. You buy a house, someone else rents it, and you get that monthly rent as income. Anyone who has been a landlord knows that it’s not entirely passive, even if you pay an agency to handle the day to day work. But you get the idea. You buy the house once, and it generates income as long as you have it. Once the mortgage is paid off, that rent is all profit minus the cost of upkeep for which you are responsible as the owner. However, in the internet age, there are myriad options to generate passive income without owning a bit of real estate!

Today, digital assets are a very common and powerful way to generate passive income. We touched on this in several episodes of my YouTube channel, including this one. Click that link to check it out, and hear the many ways in which Eric generates passive income. He’s a sole practitioner architect. But as he states on the show, his aim since realized, was to get to the point where >80% of his income came from passive sources. He has written several books, created internet-based courses, sells plans and software add-ons, has affiliate programs, and also runs a very popular YouTube channel. But isn’t there work required to write a book or develop a course? You bet! But you do that work once, and then make the material available for purchase. People purchase it and you earn income. You put in the work to film and edit a YouTube video, and earn ad revenue when people view it. You create the asset and it generates recurring revenue. If you choose wisely, your content might even age well and need minimal upkeep over time. Sounds great to me!

I’m not an architect and neither are most of you. But each of us certainly has expertise in one or more areas, gained over our lives and the course of our careers. Surely, there are ways to monetize that knowledge and experience – many of those means are largely passive in nature. How might you approach this given your own interests? Yes, I can hear some of your thoughts already: Not everyone wants to write a book, develop a course, or launch a YouTube channel. Of course those are only a few of the ideas you can undertake. The Four-Hour Work Week describes other paths well worth considering. But perhaps you’re still not sure where to start, or want something a bit more actively managed? There are some great resources out there for more information and inspiration!

“Tune in. Take Action. Make Money.”

Those few simple and well-chosen words are the defining tagline for “The Side Hustle Show”, a key resource site and incredibly popular podcast hosted by Nick Loper. I’ve learned tons from him and the many fascinating guests he has on the show. I highly recommend it – and I get no benefit from you checking it out.

Side hustles at their simplest can take the form of part-time gig work (things like driving for a rideshare app or Instacart shopper) that you never intend to grow to something bigger. You’re just supplementing your main income source(s) with some other work. But there are countless ideas out there for much more passive means to generate income as well.

My wife has generated a fun, small passive income stream from one of the ideas she learned from the show (Episode 339: Low content publishing). She designs and sells a variety of journals, yearly planners, password logbooks, etc. via Amazon KDP print-on-demand. With this approach, there is no inventory, order management, or customer service – Amazon does all that! Most importantly, there is effectively zero cash outlay required for this business. She uses free web-based software to do layout and design (something she enjoys even without any paycheck!), and uploads the PDFs to Amazon, who lists them on the site. People find her books via search, they order them, and she earns royalties on each copy sold. This is just one idea where with just a little effort and creativity, you can have a nice side business – or perhaps something much larger!

But side hustles don’t have to be passive if that’s not of interest. On the podcast I shared above, you’ll find countless examples of people who took a hobby or a passion (baking cookies is one that comes to mind) and grew it to a six-figure income personal business! Side hustles are great because they are a safe means to test the waters. Sure, there is effort involved in exploring an idea and testing it out. “Hustle” is in the title after all! But doing something as a side hustle means that you’ve got the security of your primary income while you investigate your new idea(s). I’m certain each of us has something they love doing and have wondered whether it could be a business. The answer is probably yes! And if you don’t have that “magic idea” just yet – check out the podcast and website I listed above and learn from the examples of others.

As stated, my intention was not that this post handed you a blueprint for your next business. Of course I have no idea what your interests are and what would fit you best! But this article will have been a success for me if it merely inspired you to check out one or more of the sources I mentioned, gets you thinking about ideas for your side hustle and/or future business. It’s so easy for any of us to get wrapped up in our daily grind at work, home, or otherwise. You’re all busy people! But I’d challenge you to give this some thought. Who knows what exciting development might come from it? I wish you all great success!

image credit: Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Wanted: knowledge, altitude, and perhaps more?

aerial photo of a hilly landscape

After my recent posts, I decided that I’m overdue to write a lighter piece. I’ve previously posted about one of my favorite topics, my never-ending quest for knowledge. In envisioning what “retiring early” from my biotech career might look like, I always knew that taking coursework and learning new skills would likely be a big draw for me. In-person classes haven’t been an option for the past year due to COVID restrictions, but I’ve found numerous other ways to satisfy this need. The 6+ months I spent improving my app development abilities is a really good example of that, as have the hours spent in the kitchen trying to master Oaxacan moles! But what have I been up to for the past week, and how does that involve a quest for knowledge, altitude, and perhaps something more?

Drones, UASes, and quadcopters, oh my!

Seven years ago, my wife, Lorri bought me a quadcopter as a gift. It was a nice model in the midrange of the “toy” portion of the drone market, and a fun one to fly. It’s less tricky to pilot than others I’d tried previously, and in its time, took decent quality photos/videos. While I like it very much, I must admit I’ve always eyed the higher-end drones (officially “UAS” or unmanned aircraft systems to the FAA) for their impressive capabilities – particularly in recent years as their high prices finally started to drop. They are much easier to fly, stable in poor conditions, have high quality camera platforms for photography and videography, and fly longer/farther/higher. More recently, watching my friend Eric’s drone footage on his YouTube channel has only made me more interested in these drones.

Early this week, that interest grew after I struggled to control my quadcopter in a moderate wind. I quickly decided that I wouldn’t be able to get the footage for our latest Two Sides of FI YouTube video as I’d hoped. I also realized that the video quality now paled in comparison to 2021 standards. As a result, I started to wonder if this was a good time to consider upgrading. As is my standard response to a knowledge gap, I ended up down a deep rabbit hole of research. I spent hours learning everything I could about the current state of consumer drones. That included some areas I hadn’t thought much about before – federal and local regulations about the use of these craft, the many business uses of drones, as well as lots of content about how to produce high quality photos and videos with the impressive cameras now commonly used in these vehicles. I bet you can guess where this is headed…

DJI Mavic Air 2 (affiliate link)

Yep, I bought a new drone

After much consideration of what I was seeking vs. the options available, I decided on one of the top-rated models from last year: a DJI Mavic Air 2. While prices have come down a lot in recent years, an $800 purchase is definitely not one I make lightly. I slept on the idea, talked it over with Lorri, and decided to go for it. To be sure, this price point is well outside of my monthly “fun money” in our budget. But I’d recently been pursued by a firm looking for some consulting calls with me, and while I’d initially hesitated – freedom to spend my time how I want being something I value a lot – this purchase pushed me to accept some calls to offset the expense. This is a real life example of what I view as the greatest value of achieving financial independence (FI): you can choose to take on work if and when you want to. Here it made good sense to me. As it turned out, it was a good choice. The client’s interests aligned well with mine and I enjoyed the first call I had with them.

So now at the end of the week, how have things gone? I went out and flew on three of the four days (one day I volunteered at the vaccine clinic, so had to skip that one) and plan to get out later today as well. I definitely got much more comfortable flying and took some cool photos and videos along the way. Looking back to why I started thinking about upgrading, it’s hard to believe just how easy this drone is to fly even in strong winds, and also how great the pictures and videos look! Between my hands-on experience so far and all the research I’ve continued to do in between, I’m learning an awful lot. I even got some footage for the YouTube channel – stay tuned!

I’ve also realized that I may want to “do more” with my newfound capabilities. I’m really getting into the videography side of things and I can see a lot of opportunities there. Maybe it will turn into an occasional or part-time business? I certainly don’t know where things may go but I’ve got all kinds of ideas rolling around in my brain. To that end, both to increase my knowledge and to prepare me for that potential next step, I’m working on my FAA Part 107 Certified Drone Pilot license. This certification is required for anyone wanting to pursue any commercial usage of drones. Even if I don’t ever go beyond my current “recreational flyer” status, I’ll have learned plenty that I can put to use. I’m enjoying learning the material needed to pass the exam, and can already see how it will only make me a better, safer pilot.

And if you’re wondering – yes, I’m very responsible about where and how I fly. I’m equally irritated by drones used improperly or where they aren’t permitted! The rules are clear and for good reason.